Chinese lunar rover found ‘gel-like’ substance on the far side of the moon

China’s Beijing Aerospace Control Center has reported having found an unknown and unusually colored ‘gel-like’ substance through its lunar rover.

The Yutu-2 Chinese lunar rover was reportedly conducting its regular rounds over the far side of the moon when Chinese scientists put the scheduled route of the rover to a stop.

Tracks made by Yutu-2 while navigating hazards during lunar day 8, which occurred during late July and early August 2019.
Source: China Lunar Exploration Project

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

On Yutu-2’s lunar day 8, which was on July 25, it stumbled upon the intriguing substance. However, it wasn’t until July 28th, when the Chang’e-4 team was preparing to power Yutu-2 down for its usual midday ‘nap,’ had a team member was able to discover the strange substance.

The said image was taken by the rover’s main camera. The photo included a small crater on the moon’s surface, which seemingly contained material with color and luster unlike that of the surrounding lunar surface, according to a Yutu-2 ‘drive diary’ published on Aug. 17 by the government-sanctioned Chinese-language publication Our Space, which focuses on space and science communication.

The team member, excited by the discovery asked their lunar scientists to look into the strange material more intently. 

With the help of the rover’s Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS), which detects light that is scattered or reflected off materials to reveal their makeup, they were able to perform close speculation about the substance. 

VNIS is the same instrument that detected tantalizing evidence of material originating from the lunar mantle in the regolith of Von Kármán crater, a discovery Chinese scientists announced in May.

However, Chinese scientists cannot tell for certain what the exactly the substance was. One possible explanation is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon.

For now, they will have to collect samples and do further testing to say for sure what the strange substance was. 

Mainly, discoveries like this are of great interest because this entire Chinese lunar mission is on a quest of shedding light unto this side of the moon.  

China launched its Chang’e-4 or Jade Rabbit-2 mission to the far side of the moon on Dec. 8, 2018 Beijing Time (Dec. 7 EST/GMT). China is the first country ever to send a rover to soft-land on the lunar far side—the side perpetually facing away from Earth. 

Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces the Earth. China’s lunar rover, Yutu-2, left the first ever “footprint” from a human spacecraft on this side of the moon on January 3.

The three main spacecraft of China’s Chang’e four mission to the far side of the moon is seen in this still from a China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation animation. The mission uses the Chang’e 4 lander and rover on the lunar surface, with communications supplied by the Queqiao relay satellite above.
Source: CASC

Furthermore, the Chang’e-4 mission is not comprised of a rover alone. There are a total of three main components, namely: the Chang’e 4 lander and rover on the lunar surface, with communications supplied by the Queqiao relay satellite above.

All three rode atop a Long March 3B rocket, which lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Dec. 7, 2018 (Dec. 8 local Chinese time).

In contrast to other uncrewed lunar expeditions by the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency and India, the Chinese Chang’e 4 was a controlled landing on the far side of the moon.

So far,the Yutu-2 rover had covered a total of 890 feet (271 meters) by the end of lunar day 8.

The team from China, however, has to consider that the rover is solar powered and it has to switch off during a lunar night on the moon, during which there will be no sunlight.

The temperature on a lunar night is about -180°C (-292°F) and can get high during the day, where ‘insulating’ components like the gold coloured layers outside the lander and rover keep them cool.

On its lunar day 9, Yutu-2 will continue its journey west, take a precautionary six-day nap around local noontime, and power down for a ninth lunar night around Sept. 5.

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